Thursday 19th July 2018
I slept like a log after yesterday’s marathon effort, I visited the SPAR for my breakfast sitting at their mini bar not quite up-to Japanese 7eleven standards but definitely well on the way!
The weather has improved and so has the main road now almost as bad as the UK, in fact I saw a team filling in the potholes using a truck mounted Hydrog PA-5000 Patcher (Cambridgeshire CC please note).
Riding along the dam into Zavolzhe was tough with a huge headwind and seemingly never ending. It was interesting to see the huge derelict power station at Balakhna with all the decaying district heating pipes the whole vast place now just used to house cell phone masts a real sign of the times.
I stuck to the very busy main road as much as possible although given the narrow width of the lanes & the size of the trucks it is a tad scary at times.
Nizhny Novgorod Is a huge city and really tough negotiating all the tram lines curving across the busy road. I finally made it to the river bridge to be confronted with a 200foot climb into the city with the heavens opening up as I crawled up the hill. I made it to the Ibis Hotel suitably soaked 🙁 I thought I would award myself a rest day here unfortunately you have to stay 3 days to get any laundry done! (most countries it’s overnight or even a couple of hours).
I now have less than 2000km to go to the Caspian Sea!
Wednesday 18 July 2018
I awoke to a dismal looking sky and a breakfast that appeared in fit & starts but which turned out OK in the end which is more than can be said for the weather. The rain started shortly after leaving and with the head wind made me leave the plotted route, even though it looked downhill, and go too Yuryevets. A poor choice as the Volga has a meander for a reason – a hill it wisely chooses to go around! As soon as I dropped down into Yuryevets I regretted it, a dismal forgotten poor town reminding me of Creswell in the 50’s with its hotel in much the same condition.
It was still early the weather was improving and so I quickly left to go to Puchezh which appeared to have an hotel. I found the first floor hotel but I declined both 6 bedded dorm type rooms and the one toilet as I thought I could still make it too Chkalovsk in the light and it was turning into a fine evening with much less traffic.
All went well until I took the ‘short’cut on the last 8km to the village which quickly turned into a rutted puddle laden track and then across a field, a loud bang and the front tyre squirted slime everywhere and deflated as much as me 🙁 first puncture in several thousand miles of touring 🙁 as I hit a buried metal flange.
The dog yapping away bought it’s owner out who then kindly proceeded to try and fix the puncture with his wife & kids looking on trying to communicate with me. In the end I had to resort to using my spare tube. The young lad was then sent to guide me to the bridge & hotel. I ended up losing him in the village. But great to meet such warm friendly folks 🙂
I eventually found the hotel after 9pm in the dark, close to a bright new SPAR where I could change my big note and buy some sustenance.
The lady finally let me have the room for 800 Rubles (£9.68) with en-suite bathroom 🙂
A very long day of over 100 miles ridden on a big breakfast & a bag of sweets.
Tuesday 17th July 2018
I woke up at stupid’o clock and at to wait till 7.30 for breakfast finally departing the Volga Volga hotel at 8.10 after strapping the bag on securely, a short downhill ride and I was at the river again but no boatman or anyone else around 🙁 a van driver said the nearest crossing was 35km away! I decided to give Vladimir of RCTC a call and sure enough 5 mins later a power boat turned up! He is truly a miracle man 🙂
Once on the other side I at to push the laden bike up the embankment an action I at to repeat many times as the first 40km was a sandy/stony track with many steep hills incredibly tiring in the heat with a full bike and the granny ring refusing to obey orders. I missed the RCTC truck and it’s table groaning with goodies & will definitely have to increase the bike weight even more carrying food as I didn’t pass a shop until finally arriving in Kineshma.
I bought a large ginger beer and only after nearly finishing it did I notice it had 7% alcohol 🙁 I eventually got the assistant to find me a Kvass which is turning into my favourite drink here.
Kineshma is obviously a lower class holiday town than Ples both on the banks of the Volga. I quickly found the boat hotel on the Volga the receptionist spoke English so 800Rubles (£23.20) later I had a room and promptly collapsed on the bed and slept for 3 hours! Later in their restaurant she helped me navigate their menu so hopefully I’m now better nourished than last night.
The most surprising thing so far is that all the shops take contactless payment even for things costing 15p in fact some insist on it as I suspect there is a shortage of change.
My Wahoo says there is 2,200km to go so today’s 63km implies I will need 35 days!
Monday 16 July 2018
My final day with the 22 Golden Tour folks, after today I’m on my own in Russia!
We left Kostroma just after 8am after a good chain oiling up session after yesterday’s adventures. For once in Russia the road was in reasonable condition giving me hope of getting into some decent miles one day also to add to my optimism we were riding almost the exact route that ridewithgps had calculated back home. Although the poor iPhone can’t hack the showers, the drops making it change screens. Hopefully, tomorrow the Wahoo will show the route too.
It was a bit of a struggle at the end getting down to the Volga & the tiny landing stage for the crossing over to Ples . Once again it was a tiny boat that only carried 4 bikes at a time.
Ples itself is a gorgeous little town,especislly on a warm sunny day, with a waterfront of cafes & bars. Vladimir then took me up-to my hotel the Bodra Volga which is really good, apart from being on top of a hill!
I returned to town to wave the others good bye as they left on the bus to complete their tour leaving me the only English speaking person in Ples! With the aid of Google Translate I managed to get some fish soup and a smoked perch both OK but the technique does need refining 🙂